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Best intra european Star business class

Best intra european Star business class

Old Jan 21, 20, 2:14 am
  #1  
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Best intra european Star business class

Hi,
I have some return business class award trips in Europe later this year - involving KEF, VIE , LHR and Kiev.
I want to use my United miles for these flights.
Almost almost all trips involve a transit stop so lots of flights!
The options are the usual ones - LH,OS,Swiss and LOT.
Turkish is no good for my itineraries and there are no 5th freedom sectors that i can use.( ie with wide bodies)
Basically, the seating seems to be the same although seat pitch seems to vary a little - any thoughts about the soft product etc that would make you recommend one or other of these carriers ?
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Old Jan 21, 20, 8:29 am
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What about the schedule, especially when you need to connect?
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Old Jan 21, 20, 9:09 am
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I'm avoiding LOT on any route where they might reintroduce the 7M8 but other than that, there's not much to choose between them. I find the seat pitch on OS slightly worse than LH or LX but I've no evidence that it is.
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Old Jan 21, 20, 11:18 am
  #4  
 
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Originally Posted by ozflier View Post
Hi,
I have some return business class award trips in Europe later this year - involving KEF, VIE , LHR and Kiev.
I want to use my United miles for these flights.
Almost almost all trips involve a transit stop so lots of flights!
The options are the usual ones - LH,OS,Swiss and LOT.
As someone who has been doing Europe as a *G for the last decade and a half (almost all this time as a UA 1K, but more recently as a TK *G), most of it in biz I'd rank current Star Alliance in 3 categories based on soft product, ground service and other issues/punctuality. (All seats are basically the same in my experience)

Category 1 - Best

Austrian and Swiss.

Best soft products in my view. Austrian has the slight edge with food (if that matters) and service IMHO. Both VIE and ZRH have their respective OS and LX flagship lounges and are really nice. And both airports are top class in my view, I think these are the nicest airports in Europe (together with MUC) and both have plenty of top class eating and shopping options if you hit a long layover. I find VIE and ZRH have fewer delays than many other of their equivalents. Also if you do have a long layover, then their are very convenient trains directly from the airport into the city. Also advantage of OS and LX, they tend to be reasonably punctual and are not as prone to strikes as LH.

Category 2 - OK, some good some bad.

Lufthansa, SAS (which in your case are the only two Star airlines servicing KEF), Brussels Airlines and Aegean

Hard products in these are basically the same as Austrian and Swiss, but soft product isn't quite as good in my view.

Downside for LH is that their European network are sometimes prone to strikes or risks of them - and I have been stuck in more than one of these - so you want to keep an eye on this, when you fly with them. Also while FRA is a very solid airport wiith good lounges which I like (contrary to some), and MUC is great on both points, some of the smaller airport lounges are really bad, - there doesn't seem to be a consistency with their product. Eg I flew out of Leipzig a couple of days ago, and the LH lounge (both "business" and "senator " the latter being the supposed better product), was a joke. Only food in the mid-morning were 4 dried sausage slices, which looked like these had been there since the Carter Administration ), and some packaged pieces of pumpernickel along with some sad looking candies, two choices of cereal and stale rolls. The Senator "lounge" was just a smaller room with even less food, although did have some good booze, but at 10.00am I did not partake)

SAS is ok, lounges in CPH and OSL are good, but elsewhere pretty forgettable. The whole airline has come under massive threat from Norwegian, which is a discount airline (itself running into financial issues), but it has dragged down SAS which seems to be competing with Norwegian, has cut costs, and it feels like it. Nevertheless, SAS is a perfectly fine if not great airline in terms of soft product, and both CPH and OSL I find are very efficient airports. (I tend to have longish layovers in OSL so I take the airport train into the city quite a lot).

Brussels Airlines is fine, same as all the rest. Biz is basically Economy seats with the middle seats blocked off with slight better pitch. Unless you're a 6ft+ giant, it's not going to matter. But always avoid the first row, where you often have less leg room. Flagship lounge in BRU is nice, but otherwise it's also an unremarkable airline.

Aegean - I personally like with its connections in Athens into South East Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. It's a huge improvement on the old Olympic Airlines (which still is operated by Aegean as Olympic Air but which has no relation to the old Olympic other than the brand) which is why Aegean give me a good surprise most times). But unless you have something to compare it with, it's not an outstanding product. Also be aware, that on some flights, like Croatian and LOT, even if you have a business class ticket, on some of the turboprop (and other) services there is no actual business class section/service so be careful which routes you redeem for a biz flight)

Category 3 - Not so good.

TAP, LOT, Croatian

All three airlines aren't great. They'll get you there, but on intra-European flights, you'll wonder why you redeemed points for a biz flight.

TAP (*G) new lounge in Lisbon ok, nothing fantastic but it's only in the Schengen Area - so if you want to go there and you are flying to/from US via Lisbon, it's not accessible as I recall (might have changed), although non-Schengen has separate contract lounges for other Star carriers flying out of LIS (eg for TK which I do use). I also find service on TAP generally below average. It feels like a government majority owned airline which it is.

LOT while it's improved in recent years and I think could get better as they are pitching to be an Asia to Europe and US to Europe relatively low cost connector (like TAP) with some competitive biz class transatlantic fares for instance, they still have a sub-par biz product in my view compared to say OS and LX and even LH in terms of food, drinks and service. The WAW lounge - although it's a big improvement on what it was, is still a bit meh. You can also get stuck on LOT's Embraer jets or Turboprops on key short-haul routes like WAW-TXL, again - not worth redeeming points for biz. Also at least anecdotally, there seem to be an issue with operational delays, and getting stuck at WAW is not that great.

While the new ZAG airport is a huge improvement on the old Yugoslav era one, Croatian Airlines while it has some really good connections into smaller airports in the Balkans like TGD, SKP and PRN, and is now more important than ever because of the collapse of JP and its exit from Star Alliance, the product remains weak. Some of the seats in biz will give you a flashback to travelling in the early 2000s and 1990s and I think even earlier. You get Croatian wines and some rakia selections which are nice, and the staff tend to be reasonably friendly, but the whole airline feels like it has financial issues, which it seriously does. Also it has a very small fleet, I think only 12 aircraft, and wetleases others for certain routes. (Eg earlier this year I got an Air Nostrum aircraft - which is an Iberia (one world) affiliate regional airlines flying on my Croatia Airlines (Star Alliance) SKP-ZAG route! What this all means is that you can get equipment switches fairly often, and delays can ricochet around the OU fleet if there's bad weather, because they simply don't have sufficient planes. And also, the turboprop issue as described above also applies to OU. Having said, this, I'll keep on flying OU because they simply have destinations I need to get to at a reasonably decent price. ) But for redeeming points for a great experience...not so much....)

I'll give a shoutout here to the old JP (Adria Slovenian) which I used to fly a lot and now do miss. LJU is a really nice little airport. One of the perks of JP during connections was to sit on the airport's roof top bar, have a couple of beers and watch aircraft takeoff and land. LH, LX, LO, SN and TK still fly there and frequency of flights for some of these have increased to make up for JP ending operations - so worth connecting if you're there in warmer months.

Hope this helps)

Last edited by Markie; Jan 23, 20 at 11:09 pm
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Old Jan 21, 20, 12:38 pm
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All else equal, I'd look for flights where LX uses the CS100 or CS300.
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Old Jan 21, 20, 3:48 pm
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Brilliant,thank you for such a thorough reply.
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Old Jan 22, 20, 8:09 am
  #7  
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My rankings would be LX>LO>OS>LH>TP>SK. Although I think its crazy to spend double miles for J in Europe.
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Old Jan 23, 20, 5:31 pm
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For hard product, there's not much to say beyond the narcissism of small differences that is the stock in trade of most bloggers.

For soft product, I would have put A3 close to the top about 18-24 months ago, but I've noticed a marked reduction in standards since then (worse meal choices, no Illy espresso, much worse desserts).

People love to hate on LO but as long as you avoid the Dash and your flight is a reasonable length (ie more than 10 minutes at cruising altitude!) I don't think their J product is noticeably worse than others, and in some ways better. If you like to drink, then LO FA's in J are more willing to pour alcohol down your throat than anyone else. I remember one trip (MUC-WAW) when I asked tentatively if they had any cognac and the FA immediately bought me 3 mini-bottles of VSOP and then pointed to the nearby drinks trolley and told me to take whatever I wanted if that wasn't enough! I could literally have grabbed a hatful of bottles to stuff into my bag if I'd felt like it.

J loads on LO tend to be much lighter than LH and others so you can often be the only pax or have just one other companion. As the FA/pax ratio is generally much better than on the likes of LH, you basically get instant service.

On TP, if the crew is short-handed (happens often due to labour disputes), J service can be cancelled and you might not get anything more than a glass of water.

On SK flights (SAS Plus is their PE/Pseudo-J mishmash), I sometimes pick up a disapproving vibe from the matronly FA if I order more than one G&T on a 2.5h flight ("You want another?")

I'd put OS above LX and their mileage credits for premium cabins to other *A are much better than LX (let's not even mention LH, which is zero more often than not).
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Old Jan 23, 20, 10:12 pm
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Personally I enjoy Swiss. Their food is right up there, Zurich is a very efficient airport and if you like chocolate the little chocolate bars they hand out on the plane are excellent. Once I was the only passenger in J and said something about flying to see my grandson for the first time and they practically gave me the whole basket. Their lounges at Zurich used to have Movenpick ice cream but I don't think that is so common anymore.

I enjoy food and wine, so I appreciate it when an airline showcases onboard, or in their lounges, their local food and wine. They all do a good job of this except for SAS and perhaps Brussels Airlines. I do recall one memorable visit to the VIE lounge and apart from the horrible green painted walls the Austrian wines were really very enjoyable.

One note on SAS. They don't provide lounge access for premium passengers where contract lounges are all that is available. So if there is a *A lounge (Lufthansa, SAS etc) available you are sweet, but if the location doesn't have a *A owned lounge you will not be granted access to any contract lounge. I've been caught out at Barcelona but there are quite a few (including KEF). There is a list here : https://onemileatatime.com/sas-loung...olicy-changes/
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Old Jan 26, 20, 1:23 am
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Well to add, Turkish does have real business class seating and an outstanding Istanbul lounge.
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Old Jan 26, 20, 4:38 am
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I agree with that gkbiii, plus IST is a fantastic airport for connections IMO and TK's route network is superb (one reason I swapped from UA MP to TK M&S as my primary FF program). TK fly to places I need to go regularly where no other Star Alliance airline fly (eg BUS) , and I find TK onboard service and biz food/drinks really good and pretty consistent (at least so far).

I'd also add that with TK you get access to the Primeclass Lounges (run by the Turkish TAV company) which is a good option. For example, as I wrote, last week flying out of LEJ, the LH lounge was really disappointing, so after a coffee there, I went to the Primeclass lounge next door which had a good selection of food including freshly made salads and fruit which was great for breakfast. If you were *G or in C/J flying LH, OS or LX out of LEJ you wouldn't get access to the Primeclass Lounge and could only go for the LH lounge.

Only reason I did not include TK in my review is that OP said "Turkish is no good for my itineraries." But I'm pretty happy with all of my TK flights thus far and would put them in the category 1- "best" along with OS and LX.

Last edited by Aisleseater; Jan 26, 20 at 4:41 am Reason: Clarity
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